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Archive for August, 2009

C4CNavajo, or Dine -they call themselves, is the largest tribe of North American Indians.  They used sheep for its wool to make clothes, blankets, and rugs.  They also used the sheep for food.  They traveled by horse back on long distances to trade.  Then Navajo began making items to trade in towns.  There were also trading posts built on reservations to sell their handmade crafts, such as pottery and blankets which continues to this day.

But, I’m talking about the Indian Motorcycle “trading post”.

The “trading” started with the “It Pays to Ride” promotion where you could purchase a 2009 Indian motorcycle and the company would pay the first 6 months of your payments up to $500/month. Basically it’s a $3000 discount (at the $500/month maximum) off the purchase of a new Indian motorcycle.  Now they’ve taken a page from the “Cash-for-Clunker” (C4C) program and in the process Indian out markets Harley-Davidson!  Bring in any motorcycle** and get $3000 trade on the 2009 Indian Chief model.  **The trade in must be street legal, 100 cc or larger and in running and ride able condition.  No mopeds, scooters or dirt bikes and must have a clear title.

The good news here is that taxpayer money will NOT be used to enable the dealers to offer discounts off sticker prices to extract higher profit margins.  I think this is smart marketing on Indian’s part and will likely boost the number of consumers visiting Indian motorcycle dealers.  I’m very doubtful that consumers will buy comparable quantities to the automotive program, but some new motorcycles will be sold to consumers who thought they had a motorcycle clunker to trade in.

Photo courtesy of Indian Motorcycle.

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LosersAssemblywoman Dede Scozzafava proclaims that Harley-Davidson would see similar results, like those of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) if they were to relocate the Pennsylvania manufacturing plant to upstate New York.

Scozzafava wrote a letter to Matt Levatich, H-D president and COO, citing all the strengths including skilled workforce, college network, low-cost power and economic incentives as reason to give the area consideration.  She cited AMD as the poster-child of “success.”  The NY Public Authorities Control Board offered up incentives to the tune of $1.2B with a combination of tax breaks and a $650M grant to entice AMD to commit to a $4.6B ‘chip fab’ in Malta/Saratoga Springs that is expected to come on line in 2012 and employ ~1500 people.

Well, Ms Scozzafava if you’d done “The Google” you would have noticed that AMD has consistently lost money, for so long in fact that AMD spinners now report “profitability” as losing less than the year before!  Pink slips have become more common than “Good Morning” emails!  They are burning cash and bleeding personnel.  So much so that it lead AMD to hold a smaller than expected stake in the NY fab and the creation of a joint venture with Advanced Technology Investment, the government of Abu Dhabi which is capitalized by crude oil.

Cheerleading by the hometown assemblywoman isn’t too surprising, but does she really think H-D wants to co-locate and model success after AMD results?  They have had numerous product introduction slips, 11 straight unprofitable quarters, deep employee cuts for so-called “profitability”, off-shored manufacturing to Dresden, Singapore and Malaysia and now have the Arab government as investment partner.   About the only thing AMD seems to win in is legal litigation.

I noticed that Ms Scozzafava didn’t suggest for H-D to co-locate and take a page from IBM – who took taxpayer assistance ($140M), cut employees and moved jobs overseas.  Experience should teach us about the danger of a bureaucrats zeal — well-meaning but without understanding.

Photo courtesy of Andy Diggle and DC Comics.

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Concert In The Park

Concert In The Park

Do you feel it?  The smell of fall as the lazy, hazy days of sunshine dwindle faster than a Harley-Davidson financial comeback.

Too soon the leaves will fall, rain will flood the roads and snow will fill the air as television news canvas the area to report fender-benders over and over.  Before this happens, however, there is still time to ask: “Am I making the most of my 2009 summer riding season?”

In trying to stretch out summer as much as possible I attended an outdoor concert last night.  Was it motorcycle exhaust fumes mixed with cigar smoke and classic rock music like Summerfest in Milwaukee?   No, but Body & Soul reunited last night to perform high-energy Tower of Power, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder and classic rock.

Speaking of classic rock,  I’m not talking about Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” or Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, rather it’s about Steely Dan and “My Old School.”  Remember it was the “boomers” who grew up with music at the center of their lives.  There were no cell phones, there was no Facebook.  They lived to twist the AM dial in the coupe, if lucky had a FM radio and a phone in their bedroom.  The glue that kept them together was the music.  They call this music “classic rock”.  Classic, as in aged, as in done.  But, I beg to differ.

Body & Soul Music Group

Body & Soul Music Group

Insiders will tell you the best Steely Dan album was the second, “Countdown To Ecstasy“, the one that ended their touring career, the one sans any hits.  I disagree. It was “Can’t Buy A Thrill” which was truly a masterpiece.   At the concert last night Body & Soul performed “My Old School” and hearing those guitar riffs made me want to blog about it.

For the uninitiated, or those who grew up in the mid-west, or even further left, Annandale-on-Hudson is the location of Bard College, where those who were smart, but thought high school was B.S and didn’t have the grades commensurate with their intelligence ended up going to college to further their creativity.  It’s where Walter Becker and Donald Fagen went to school before moving on to back up Jay Black as two of his Americans and ultimately getting a deal with ABC Records.  They were forced to get a lead singer, David Palmer, since Fagen’s voice was “supposedly” deemed not radio-ready by the studio execs.  Mr. Palmer sang the lead vocal on a legendary track, but I like this version of “Dirty Work” however, when performed live it hasn’t got the same power with backup singers taking the lead.

SDAfter struggling in the music trenches for years, plying their trade far from the spotlight, Steely Dan became a success and was an AM radio fixture.  Not an FM staple.  Remember back… FM was in the process of getting dumbed down, featuring meat and potatoes rock as opposed to intelligence, but when the hooks of “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In The Years” poured out of one speaker it could not be denied by AM radio and the album “Can’t Buy A Thrill” became a huge hit.  It was an album seen most often in dorm rooms of those not quite hip, but didn’t have to worry about their cred.

For those of us who lived through it, when we hear Steely Dan songs we’re brought right back.  I’ve seen Becker and Fagen at the Gorge Amphitheatre a couple of times.   Their troupe of hired musicians return us to what was and who we used to be.  And one could say it was aged music, but like wine, some things get even better as the years go by.

Even though youngsters these days might not understand, they positively get awesome musicianship.  It’s not about staging or production it’s about the music. Yes, the sun is setting on these baby boomer acts.  Their audience is getting older, fans don’t feel the same need to go to the show.  But if you’re a musician you play anyway.  That’s what you’re in it for, the SOUND!

Steely Dan and Body & Soul photos courtesy of respective web sites.

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Health_CareAs a motorcycle enthusiasts should we care about the Healthcare debate?  In a word, YES!

Looking in our rear view mirror, there is precedent for all of us to be concerned with in regards to any health care legislation coming out of Washington. For example in 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that was intended to ensure non-discrimination in health coverage in the group market. However, when it came to implementing the law, the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service and the Health Care Financing Administration – now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – issued a rule allowing insurers to deny health benefits for an otherwise covered injury that results from certain types of recreational activities, such as skiing, horseback riding, snowmobiling or motorcycling. Even though many motorcycle friendly organizations (ABATE, AMA, etc.,) have fought this discriminatory rule with legislation, it’s a clear indicator of what can happen if a new health care bill is implemented by bureaucrats in Washington using biased data.

More information can be obtained HERE on injury exclusions as each state has unique implementations.  In some cases state law compliments HIPAA.

Generically speaking, the most simple answer is for motorcycle enthusiasts to oppose any legislation that may come from the new healthcare debate which restricts the freedoms of riders who enjoy an active lifestyle.  We cannot allow our elected officials to abdicate the rights of the insured to an unelected commission or board, which will render final decisions regarding appropriate medical coverage for individuals who ride motorcycles as a mode of transportation or for recreation (e.g., denial of a procedure).

If this issue resonates with you, below is a form letter to mail to your state reps for reference:

[Your Name]
[Street Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]

August 27, 2009

Note: In Oregon write to all three:

The Honorable Jeff Merkley
United States Senate
107 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3704

The Honorable Ron Wyden
United States Senate
223 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3703

The Honorable Kurt Schrader
House of Representatives
1419 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-3705

Re: Motorcyclists Express Concern with Health Care Debate

Dear Senator [NAME]:

As a constituent and riding enthusiast, I urge you not to include anything in the various health care bills that may adversely affect my ability to ride a motorcycle.  I am opposed to any legislation that may inhibit the freedoms of riders, including myself, from enjoying an active lifestyle.

I value personal freedom and responsibility when it comes to enjoying my passion for riding. As you continue your deliberations on health care reform, please do not abdicate the rights of the insured to an unelected commission or board which will render final decisions regarding medical coverage for those of us who ride as a mode of transportation or for recreation. Please ensure that I will continue to be able to pursue my chosen recreational pursuit without the addition of unneeded prohibitions, limitations or mandates stemming from the health care legislation under consideration.

Again, I urge you to protect my freedoms from being dictated to by an unelected commission or board in determining medical coverage for individuals who ride.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

We need to write our government representatives and voice our concerns regarding the various health care bills to ensure that motorcyclists can chose a recreational pursuit without the addition of unneeded limitations or mandates stemming from any health care legislation being considered.

Photo courtesy of Masscare.org

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EmpireOnce upon a time, a century or so ago, there was actually a shortage of information.  In small towns, people would even interrogate strangers passing through just to find out what was going on in the world.  Those days are long gone and today we have the reverse problem.  There is too much information.

Which brings up Mr. Bogdan Bucurescu, managing director of Harley-Davidson Bucharest, who put out a press release announcing the dealer sold sixteen (16) motorcycles year to date!  Is this what it’s come too?  Motorcycle sales so pitiful that you need to tell the world you’ve garnered a 20% market segment share in a market which dropped 75% — and then explain it as a good result!  Talk about spin.  In 2008, Automotive Trading Services (ATS), the importer of H-D and Buell motorcycles announced that Romania sold 80 motorcycles.  Clearly sales are off this year and using a press release to show “upside” is nothing but a distraction from the bigger picture.

This trend reminds me of a parallel in the music industry where we’ve got aging superstars, overcharging to fewer and fewer people.  And at the other end of the spectrum we’ve got the Top Forty wonders, making ever more boring records for a shrinking market.  At the current Bucharest dealer sales pace will it be long before we read a press release stating 100% market segment share from ZERO sales?   There must be some new type of business model in Romania which enables a dealer to make money with NO sales?!

Back to sixteen… Huh?  A city with 1.9 million people!  Doesn’t that seem low?  Just four months ago the sales manager, Marcel Chiva made projections of selling one motorcycle a week with plans to remain in the top 3 motorcycle manufactures in the above 650cc segment.

With little effort it’s easy to learn that Romania, a communist country until 1989, has the 7th largest population (with 21.5 million people) among the European Union (EU) member states.  Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, the 6th largest city in the EU.  Bucharest is also the center of the Romanian economy, accounting for around 14% of the country’s GDP and about one-quarter of its industrial production. Almost one third of national taxes is paid by Bucharest’s citizens and companies.  Add this to the fact that Romania has a large, upper-middle-income economy, the 15th largest in Europe based on purchasing power parity and the center of Romanian media (read advertising), since it is the headquarters of all the national television networks as well as national newspapers and radio stations… it seems the country’s economic growth is out of sync with motorcycle consumption and no matter how many times I punch in the data on my trusty Tandy desk calculator, it just doesn’t add up.

Despite my bit of Romania/Bucharest boosterism, H-D’s use of fringe markets to project trivial news is a distraction and contributes to information overload.  And yes I’m guilty of finding unusual angles on stories that everyone else is missing.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Nike Clothing Exit -- Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi

Nike Exit -- Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi

According to miss-placed sources the Nike endorsement scouts have frantically been working to strike deals with high profile Scottish “residents” for a new line of casual wear.

The new ad campaign titled “Compassionate Wear: For Those Making A Fast Exit” pitches a 30-second TV commercial that depicts an ailing individual who is released from a “solitary village” in tourism clothing; (white) running shellsuit, prominent black-on-white “Swoosh” baseball cap, and walking trainers.  This new “Compassionate Wear” campaign was first rolled out last week with celeb Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi,  the terrorist who killed 270 (most who were Americans) in the 1988 Pan Am flight over Lockerbie Scotland and was recently returned to a hero’s welcome in Libya after only serving 8 years of a life sentence.  His compassionate release by Mr. MacAskill was due to “so-called” final stages of prostate cancer and having less than 3 months to live.

According to my Nike sources who never attended the unveiling, the new “Compassionate Wear” clothing line needed to send a powerful association message of being “FAST” even as relaxed tourism casual wear.  Ideas by Nike marketing were bullets, airplanes, camera flashes, really fast dogs, and other athletes who walked counterclockwise to turn back time.  In fact, the marketing rep reportedly said the words “fast” and “really fast” more than 72 times per minute.  They also described the use of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in some of the upcoming commercials to leave burn-out tire marks on the road with tiny flames coming out of them. Fire equals fast…  Other concepts bantered around was something about an exploding stopwatch which was clearly ill-conceived as they were caught off guard by the obvious bomber correlation.

Boycott Motorcycle Scotland

Boycott Motorcycle Scotland

All humor aside — although completely implausible and actually quite offensive, I’m sure Nike wasn’t satisfied with a direct link to the Scottish judicial system and the Lockerbie bomber.  What?  The same company that aggressively fights any sweat shop image worry about poisoned relations due to the Lockerbie bombers high profile release in their logo?   Right!  Would love to have read that letter from Mr. Phil Knight.

The release was wholly wrong and my suggestion is to boycott Scotland.  Tourism and whisky are two of the major economic ties to Scotland.  Each year more than 340,000 Americans visit Scotland – one out of every five – and in aggregate spend more than $425M per year.  Don’t motorcycle Scotland, read Robert Burns poetry, download music or golf the pristine courses.  And don’t purchase their whiskey.  There is a group called “Boycott Scotland” or you can email Mr. MacAskill HERE to directly voice your concerns/outrage.

I don’t know if the absence of Americans on their golf courses will have any impact on the economy, but making noise which reflects the public sentiment has shown in a number of instances to make a difference.

Photo courtesy of Danny Lawson, AFP/Getty.  Full Disclosure: I’m Irish, have no sources at Nike and Pendleton Whiskey is my new friend.

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2-Day_LaunchIn two days the Indian “Alphonso” mangoes will hit the U.S. supermarket shelves for the first time in 18 years!

I’m reminded of that Jimmy Buffett song “Last Mango in…”

I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat

When I hear a voice call out to me, “Son, come have a seat”

The “seat” in this case is attached to a Harley-Davidson.  In exchange for importing mangoes, H-D will be allowed to launch its 883 Sportster and Fatboy in the “land of a billion people” (a.k.a. India) on August 27th as long they comply with Euro-III emission norms. In a country that snaps up more than 6 million new motorcycles a year, H-D is a bit late to the party, but they have to be optimistic given the successes of Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Ducati “superbikes” (anything over 800cc are referred to superbike in India).  The bikes will be shipped to India and available as a CBUs (Completely Built Units).  Previously the Indian government had not specified emission standards for motorcycles over 500cc which effectively prohibited the import of H-D motorcycles who could not meet the standards set for scooters.

Speaking of standards…  I’m talking about a country that after more than six decades of independence, over 55% of the population (~660Million) defecate in the open! Given these statistics it’s no surprise the government was slow to specify emission standards on 500cc motorcycles when they clearly are busy with sanitation issues.

New Deli Traffic

New Deli Traffic

Until this week Royal Enfield (owned by Eicher Group) was the only motorcycle maker to offer cruisers in India.  Consistently large orders from the Indian government led to establishing a factory back in 1955 in the town of Chennai, India.  Even after production stopped in England they continued in Chennai.  Here is a 5 min video of them building a motorcycle.  There seems to be a fondness of following the old British tradition and use of a mallet to assist in the precision parts fitting!

Anyone who has visited India knows that the large cities of New Deli, Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Mumbai have traffic that defies amazing.  It’s extremely densely packed roads with stop-n-go vehicles and engines idling most all of the time.  Then there are the rickshaws (phat-phatis), bicycles, jay-walkers, street-car peddlers, cows, donkey carts and at any given time each traffic lane supporting triple the number of vehicles that it should so, what you end up with is pure chaos.  Even with astronomically high traffic-death rates, scooters and motorcycles are the more practical method of getting around on these packed roads.

Matt Levatich, President and COO of Harley-Davison reportedly will be on hand at the launch and annual Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to welcome back H-D to India for the first time since World War II.  At that time thousands of motorcycles were shipped to the eastern Assam state of India with the intention of transporting men and deliver mail.

India is a prime target given the sheer market size and I want to wish them success as they work to diversify their revenue base.

Photo courtesy of H-D India and Flickr.

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York, PA Harley-Davidson Plant

York, PA Harley-Davidson Plant

Harley announced back in May a major restructuring of its operations in York, Pennsylvania and the possible move to another U.S. location.

The two plants in York employ more than 2600 employees.  I previously posted a bit of a tongue-n-cheek letter that was picked up in the local York, PA., press which recommended H-D to consider coming to Oregon, but I never heard back from the company…

At any rate, the reasons cited (my interpretation of reports) for a potential H-D move from York were:

  1. Inefficiencies – it takes too many employees too long to manufacture a motorcycle
  2. Salaries – cost structure is too high, meaning lower wages are needed to reduce the overall cost structure
  3. Economy – declining sales mean further job cuts required as production/output needs to align with sales
  4. IAMAW – in 2007 the York plant went on strike and negotiated a 12% wage increase over 3 years.  H-D received few concessions and lost 16 production days which disrupted other assembly lines. At a time when they need to reduce the cost structure by $100M one of the largest cost contributors (wages) is set to steadily rise.
Arial of Springettsbury Township H-D Plant

Arial of Springettsbury Township H-D Plant

For those of you unfamiliar, the plant in York opened in 1973, however, some of the buildings date back to World War II.   It is the largest H-D manufacturing facility and the Softail factory recently received a $145M upgrade investment. The plants cover 230 acres and have over 1.5 million square feet under roof where the workers assemble the Touring and Softail models as well as “SE” limited production factory-custom motorcycles.  This plant also has the dubious honor of being the most visited by a sitting U.S. President  (Bush and Clinton) who’s administration’s leveraged the plant for free-trade discussions.

It’s been reported that after a week of H-D executives visiting various locations the short list was announced as four possible sites. Drum roll please…… they are:

  1. Shelbyville, Kentucky, located between Louisville and Lexington;
  2. Murfreesboro, Tennessee, located just southeast of Nashville;
  3. Shelbyville, Indiana, located southeast of Indianapolis;
  4. Kansas City, Missouri where Harley already has a major facility

It’s no accident that two of the four states (Tennessee and Indiana) vying for the new factory are right-to-work states and will have offered H-D numerous incentives to relocate.  I would imagine items like Investment Advantages which allows for the waiver on income/excise/sales taxes etc.; Enterprise Zones which provide property tax incentives or abatement; Vocational Rehab Services for employees who need relocation training etc., and the concession list surely goes on.  And at the same time officials in PA., are working feverishly to convince H-D to stay although they don’t have a blank sheet of paper to work from and it may limit what they can offer up.  In 2008, Harley employees paid over $2M in local taxes and should the plant relocate it would be a major budget hit to the municipalities.  The H-D “spin machine” continues to state that staying in Pennsylvania is the preferred option, yet in the same breath they also cite inefficiencies and cost structure issues with the York facility.

You know the mood these days isn’t just about banks or exec bonuses being Public Enemy No. 1.  I think what disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of a Seahawk football ticket to cultural forces in the news media.  What this recession has crystallized for many of us is the sinking sensation that the American game is rigged — that the system is in hock to “the interests of powerful lobbyists or the “wealthiest few” who have run the “system” too long.

It’s hard to avoid the sense that H-D is wasting time trying to appease people who can’t be appeased.  Is H-D really committed to moving the York plant or is this about the art of a negotiation… where they preview and think about taking every new concession.  Isn’t it really just an indicator that any state can be punked?

York Plant photo courtesy of H-D.

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Hamsters Logo on Fuel Tank

Hamsters Logo on Fuel Tank

In the Andes, guinea pigs have a festival devoted to them, which includes contests for the biggest, fastest and best-dressed furry friend.  A Hamster fest has yet to be founded, unless you’re thinking of the motorcycle group?!

The Hamsters’ Motorcycle Club (HMC) is an elite and somewhat secret group of motorcycle riders.  Charter members were Arlen Ness, Dave Perewitz, Donnie Smith, Ed Kerr, Jim Leahy, Barry Cooney and Steve Allington.  A who’s who of the motorcycle industry!  It began in 1978 at Daytona Bike Week.   As the story goes Jim “Jimmy” Leahy and others were in the Mystic Sea Hotel.  They were taking a nap and when they woke up no one was around.  No money, no food and peeved about being ditched Jimmy started calling them Hamsters.  He drew pictures of Hamsters on a bunch of paper plates and wrote Hamsters M/C on each of them.  Before placing them on doors he personalized the names of the charter members.  The idea was it would aggravate his posse, but instead they all laughed about it and the name stuck.  Jimmy went and had black shirts with white letters made up that said Hamsters M/C.  Later the MC was dropped and they call themselves enthusiasts.

Hamster_LogoThe rodent stuck as the mascot which graces bright yellow t-shirts.  The club is selective about new members, but it includes blue collar workers to doctors.  You don’t just join the club.  You must ride with the group 6-7 years and then you’ll receive an invitation to join. There are now 240 members with chapters as far away as Italy, England and Japan.  These days the Hamsters are about as opposite you can get from the outlaw bad guy clubs.

It takes three things to become a Hamsters member:

  1. Owning a custom bike
  2. Riding a custom bike to South Dakota’s Sturgis rally with the group, at least two years in a row
  3. Receiving an invitation to join by another member

The Hamsters have ridden to Sturgis for 25 consecutive years and never followed the same route.  The Spearfish Holiday Inn has served as the Hamsters’ headquarters for several years although approximately 20+ Hamsters purchased townhouses behind the hotel known as Hamster Hill Lane.  The annual dues are $100 and Hamsters who don’t attend at least one function each year are voted out.  Some years there are no new members allowed into the club. Some years there are as many as seven. The average is two.

The Hamsters are famous for a lot things, but two notable items I wanted to bring to your attention is the Hulett Ham-n-Jam in the land of no overpasses (Wyoming on the way to Devil’s Tower) and their generosity and major fundraising for charitable functions.  Many of the Hamsters are world-renowned motorcycle and motorcycle parts builders who donate items to be auctioned off at charity events.  The group’s generosity and ability to raise funds/donations is staggering.

I would be negligent if I didn’t also mention the high profile and weird coincidence of Bruce Rossmeyer (Daytona H-D) and Clifton “Click” Baldwin (Carolina H-D).  Both Harley-Davidson dealer owners, both on the way to the Sturgis Rally riding from dealer meetings, both members of the Hamsters Motorcycle Club/Group, both in deadly motorcycle accidents (Wyoming and Montana respectively) while passing a vehicle turning left on a two lane country highway.  Both passed away one year apart, neither were wearing helmets and both accidents were reportedly misjudgments.  It’s truly sad and a tremendous loss for the communities and families.

I’m reminded of the prophetic Marvin Gaye song “Brother, brother, brother…there’s far too many of you dying…”  Let’s hope for better days ahead…

Photo of courtesy of Hamsters.

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DistractedAll motorcycle riders are responsible for the safe operation of their vehicle on public roads and highways.

For that matter all road users — car drivers, truck drivers and even bicyclists share this responsibility.  Yet, distracted or inattentive driving has become a major issue for both motorcyclists and automobile operators.  Far too many incidents have been documented where motorcyclists were injured or killed as the result of inattentive driving.   In addition, automobile drivers engaged in distracted driving behavior are extremely dangerous to motorcyclists having deadly results.

Meanwhile we learn that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) withheld distracted-driver data to avoid angering Congress.  And how about this…ever pass a semi driver who was on the phone?  I have.  A new study conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that when long haul truck drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.  Thirty-six states do not ban texting while driving!

Below is a summary of Oregon motorcycle accidents and questionable riding judgment/behavior for June – August 20, 2009.  I truly dislike researching and aggregating this type of information.  As a result, I’ve added direct links to the police accident flash report and state police PR activity on the right side under “Latest News” link and you can directly access the data if you have interest.  I’m not going to summarize accident reports going forward… they creep me out.

08-13-2009 – Washington County Sheriff And CART Respond To Fatal Motorcycle Crash — KENNETH DAWKINS, age 36, from Tigard died when his motorcycle collided with a guard rail on Southwest Scoggins Valley Road near Henry Hagg Lake.  Another motorcyclists, VIACHESLAV KOSTYUSHKO, age 21, from Milwaukee, sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was discharged from the hospital. More info on a previous post HERE.

08-13-2009 – Sheriff’s Office Responds To Motorcycle Crash (No Link) — The driver of a 2006 Harley-Davidson, MARK STRAND, age 49, from Salem was eastbound on Hazelgreen Road NE.  Came around the corner near 75th Ave NE and went off the road into the ditch.  STRAND was life flight to Legacy Emanual Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

08-07-2009 – Double Fatal Traffic Crash – Highway 20 east of Albany — A 1999 Saturn 4-door, operated by MICHELLE IRMA ELDRIDGE, age 46, from Lebanon, was westbound on Highway 20 near milepost 9. The Saturn began to pass a vehicle and collided head-on with an eastbound 2006 Harley Davidson motorcycle. Both Eldridge and the operator of the motorcycle, RICK DALE STEPHENSON, age 50, of Kelso, WA, were deceased at the scene.

08-01-2009 – Fatal Traffic Crash – Highway 22 west of Santiam Pass — A Harley Davidson motorcycle operated by TERRY MELTON, age 46, from Salem, was eastbound on Highway 22 near milepost 70 with his wife, VIRGINIA MELTON, age 53, as a passenger. Preliminary information indicates the operator noticed his wife slumping behind him and tried to hold on to her to keep her from falling off the motorcycle. Despite his attempt to keep her on, she fell off onto the highway. After the passenger fell off, the operator lost control and laid the motorcycle on its side and slid an unknown distance on the highway.

07-27-2009 – 130 MPH Motorcyclist Arrested east of The Dalles — The operator, identified as WILLIAM A. NISWANGER, age 31, from Sandy, told the trooper that he knew that he was driving too fast but was trying to get his female passenger to a 8:30 a.m. court appointment in Bend.  It was 8:16am.  NISWANGER had five outstanding warrants for his arrest. The warrants were all based on prior traffic offenses.

07-15-2009 – Video Released of Motorcyclist Crashing Next to OSP Trooper Reminder to Slow Down and Pay Attention — An Oregon State Police (OSP) in-car video of an incident that happened June 18th is being released after a motorcycle operator pled guilty to Careless Driving when he lost control and separated from his motorcycle. The in-car video caught the sliding motorcycle and rolling operator as both passed the trooper’s stopped patrol car along Interstate 84 in The Dalles.

07-06-2009 – Fatal Motorcycle Crash – Highway 126E near Belknap Springs — 2002 Harley Davidson operated by ANN MARIE POOLE, age 50, from Ravensdale, Washington was eastbound on Highway 126E near milepost 11 following her husband who was operating a second motorcycle.  For an unknown reason while negotiating a slight right curve, the motorcycle crossed the center line and crashed into a guardrail.

07-05-2009 – Fatal Motorcycle Crash – Interstate 84 west of Ontario — 2005 Suzuki motorcycle operated by STEVE HOLVEY, age 57, from Baker City, was eastbound on Interstate 84 near milepost 356.  For an unknown reason, the motorcycle was negotiating a left curve and drove off the right side of the freeway onto the gravel shoulder.

07-04-2009 – 122 MPH Motorcyclist Arrested Following Attempt to Elude in Southeast Portland — 2007 Suzuki SX7 motorcycle southbound on Interstate 205 near Powell Boulevard and obtained a speed reading on radar of 122 mph in a 55 mph speed zone.  RYAN ROBERT DOWLEY, age 20, from southeast Portland, was taken into custody for Felony Attempt to Elude Police on a Vehicle and Reckless Driving.

06-16-2009 – OSP Cites 103 MPH Driver on Highway 26 west of Madras — 1997 gray Suzuki traveling West on Hwy 26, 10 miles east of Madras, for traveling at 103 mph in a posted 55 mph zone. The driver was 20 year old TRAVIS SPRENGEL of Madras.

06-01-2009 – OSP Cites 130 MPH Driver on Highway 18 west of McMinnville — 2006 Kawasaki motorcycle accelerated toward northbound Interstate 5 and the trooper was able to obtain a speed reading of 110 mph while it was in a curve merging onto the freeway from Kruse Way. The motorcycle was stopped near milepost 295 and its operator, TODD A. MARSH, age 46, from McMinnville, was cited for Exceeding the Posted Speed Limit in Excess of 100 mph.

Photo courtesy of Alan927.com.  Rider in photo is a professional on a closed course.

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